Electoral reform coalition Bersih has warned Pakatan Harapan's (PH) against continuing the previous Barisan Nasional's censorship style as well as the abuse of government media outlets by turning them into government propaganda tools.
This followed the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission's (MCMC) move to block another news outlet, UtusanTV, the latest in a string of crackdowns on media seen as critical of the government.
Bersih also noted a trend of declining media freedom under Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim's administration.
"A key cornerstone of democracy is free and fair access to public media by all political parties, but sadly, Malaysia has never witnessed such fair play during our elections. The PH-led unity government continues to treat government-owned public broadcast media as their private assets and deny critical views by the opposition from being aired," it said in a statement.
UtusanTV, a current affairs portal with a huge following on TikTok, is run by a group of former employees of the now-defunct Utusan Melayu media company and was found to have been blocked by MCMC yesterday.
It was the latest in a series of attempts by MCMC to stop local users from accessing news websites and political contents, following similar blockages imposed on news portal MalaysiaNow as well as political commentary site Malaysia Today and another blog run by former MP Wee Chee Kiong.
Wee has since filed a judicial review to challenge MCMC, which is set to be heard next week.
The commission, which comes under Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil, has remained silent in the face of criticism.
Describing MCMC as one of the institutions "born in the era of authoritarianism", Bersih reminded PH of its election pledges in the past two general elections, including a promise of media freedom and the repeal of draconian laws, including the Communications and Multimedia Act, which has been used several times against critics under the current government.
"In this day and age of social media accessibility, it is futile for any government to try and restrict their opponents," it said, adding that access to UtusanTV must be unblocked immediately.
It warned the public against supporting media crackdowns even under the pretext of curbing extremism.
"We would like to remind both the government and all stakeholders that extremism can only be curbed with legitimate, targeted, and fair measures on the one hand and the encouragement of healthy and constructive debates on the other.
If the crackdown is deemed driven by partisan calculation, the suppressed voices will only grow stronger in the undercurrents, posing a greater danger to inclusion and stability," the group said.